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Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during a campaign stop in Dieppe, N.B., on April 1, 2011. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during a campaign stop in Dieppe, N.B., on April 1, 2011. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Crunching Numbers

Tory majority still out of reach despite first-week gains, polls suggest Add to ...

It may be too much to expect great swings in voting intentions only one week into the campaign, especially considering the stability of the Canadian electorate over the past 12 months. But though the Conservatives are moving incrementally toward a majority government, they have not yet reached their goal and many obstacles still stand in their way.

The Conservatives are projected to win 150 seats and 38.8 per cent of the vote in ThreeHundredEight.com's updated seat and vote projections for The Globe and Mail, an increase of one seat since the last pre-campaign projection. It is also an increase of seven over the party's standing at the dissolution of the House of Commons, but still puts the Tories five seats short of a majority.

The Liberals have dropped two seats to 73 in the projection, four fewer than they held in the House when the government fell. They are projected to have 27.2 per cent of the vote, virtually unchanged from two weeks ago.

The New Democrats, meanwhile, have picked up one point and two seats, and are now projected to win 16.8 per cent support and 34 seats. The Bloc Québécois has dropped one seat to 51, while the Green Party is down more than one point to 6.5 per cent, less than they had in the 2008 election.

With both the Liberals and New Democrats losing a handful of ridings, it is difficult to imagine a scenario that would install Michael Ignatieff as prime minister with the support of the two other opposition parties, even if the Conservatives are handed their third consecutive minority government.

But if the Tories do win a majority on May 2, it will likely be by the skin of their teeth, cobbled together riding by riding. And pledges made to the governments in St. John's and Quebec City could make or break this incremental strategy.

Lower Churchill and the HST

While Ontario and British Columbia are two provinces home to some of the fiercest electoral battles in this campaign, events in Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec could set the stage for some significant shifts in the next few weeks.

Stephen Harper's blessing of the hydro-electrical project on the Lower Churchill will likely result in a spike in support for the Conservative Party in Atlantic Canada, a region in which the Tories and the Liberals are running neck-and-neck at 37.3 per cent to 36.1 per cent support respectively. The Conservatives are already projected to win 13 seats in the region and the Lower Churchill pledge could see the party pick up a few more. But at what price?

Long a source of tension and conflict between Quebec and Newfoundland, the Conservatives are undoubtedly running the risk of turning Quebeckers away. The party is on the upswing in the province - they have gained almost two points and now stand second to the Bloc Québécois at 20.6 per cent - but the Lower Churchill might scupper their chances. They are now projected to retain all 11 of the seats they held in Quebec when the government fell, though the Bloc is set to re-take the riding currently held by the Conservative-proxy independent, André Arthur.

The Bloc is still well ahead of their rivals in Quebec with 38.6 per cent support, though that is a drop of almost one point since the last projection. The Liberals have been struggling in the province, and have seen their support slip by 1.4 points to only 20 per cent. They are now projected to win 12 seats in Quebec and are being pressed by the gaining New Democrats, who now have the projected support of 14.6 per cent of Quebeckers.

But the political fortunes of the four major parties in Quebec could depend on how the local population reacts to the Tories' support for the Lower Churchill project. A pledge to finalize a deal with the Quebec government on harmonizing the HST, which could involve as much as $2.2-billion, may keep enough voters in the Tory fold.

Ontario and the West

The gap between the Conservatives and Liberals has widened in Ontario, but is not quite wide enough to put the Tories over the top in the close ridings in the GTA. The NDP is showing life in the province, which will make it difficult for the Tories to topple the New Democratic MPs in Northern Ontario.

In the West, the Liberals and New Democrats have been gaining ground. Both parties are up in British Columbia, while the NDP is now poised to keep their one seat in Alberta. Liberal support is increasing in the two Prairie provinces, though their prospects for new seats in Saskatchewan and Manitoba are slim. Throughout the West, of course, the Conservatives are still king, projected to win 71 of the 92 seats in the four provinces.

ThreeHundredEight.com's projection model aggregates all publicly released polls, weighing them by sample size, date, and record of polling firm accuracy. The tested seat projection model makes individual projections for all 308 ridings in the country, based on the provincial and regional shifts in support from the 2008 election and including the application of factors unique to each riding, such as the presence of well-known candidates and the effects of incumbency.

These projections are a reflection of the likely result of an election if an election were held today. They are subject to the margins of error of the opinion polls included in the model, as well as the unpredictable nature of politics at the riding level.

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